Boutique Design Exit Interview: Humane Growth Factor

Design Poole's founder and president, Trisha Poole, offers some teaching moments for the hands-on, people-centric approach that's made her Florida firm a go-to for global brands and niche powerhouses.

In just a little over a decade after receiving her interior degree from the University of Florida College of Architecture in 1987, Trisha Poole had worked her way up the corporate ladder to become Fugleberg Koch Architects' director of interiors and, subsequently, vice president of designing for the Gettys Group. In 2000, she walked away from the security and opportunities of the big-name design world to launch her own firm, Design Poole In. "I wanted to be closer to the clients and the design process. And I wanted to mentor my own creative team," says the Florida native. "With Design Poole, I can manage how much work we take on in a year. I prefer doing fewer, higher quality, more complex projects because I don't want to lose direct involvement in what we create. I need to see everything before it goes out the door."

BEST/WORST PARTS OF RUNNING HER OWN FIRM: The biggest reward is sharing my passionate career pursuit with like-minded team members every day. I love hearing the laughter, even on project deadlines. And, I can sing in the office whenever I want. The biggest struggle was balancing time with my son while while he was growing up. The worst part of the job overall was telling valued employees we had to let them go due to recession.

HER BIGGEST RISK: Relocating my business in 2014 was a big "aha" moment. People in the industry were still afraid there wouldn't be a full recover after the [last] recession. It was a tough decision because it entailed moving my family (from Satellite Beach, Florida, to Winter Park, Florida) and basically starting my business over. But I knew moving was necessary to source the qualified talent needed for the high-profile project opportunities being presented to me.

HOW MID-SIZED FIRMS CAN BE SEXY PROJECTS WITHOUT BEING PHILIPPE STARCK: Passion sells! Present the design with passion, through a story that holds true for the entire property; from the sense of approach in architecture, through the transformational moments within the interior spaces to the site amenities extending outdoors. The client will buy into the designer's vision more easily if they can see how it impacts every aspect of the project. Go beyond the interior walls and touch all the areas that guests will be visiting or passing through. Connect the dots on how the materials and design elements you're using will add value and enhance the guest experience into your passionate story telling.

HOW TO GET THE BRANDS' ATTENTION: Become an expert on the brands you want to work with. As designers, we balance the roles of brand ambassador and developer advocate. With a comprehensive knowledge of the brand pillars you can naturally weave those characteristics and experiences into the interior design of the resort of hotel, which streamlines approvals. Owners and developers appreciate the smooth approval process and the brand benefits from a designer partnership that aligns with the brand vision.

WHO'S BUYING IN: We're working on the second phase of the Universal Studios' newest hotel with Loews Hotels, a couple of projects with Delta Hotels by Marriott and a dual brand with Wyndham Destinations and Margaritaville Vacation Club at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park. Most are new construction, but all are unique to their locations and associated brands.

WHETHER DESIGNERS ARE SNOBS: Ha! Ha! Not in our office! No divas allowed!

HER LATEST TECH CRUSH: We went to all Revit stations last year and that has been a real game changer. The design development and documentation processes are more efficient and integrally informative to all parties working on the project. It allows us to target issues with engineering systems and structural elements within the models, making us a more valuable and effective team member. The expense and training of going to Revit has been validated by the project referrals we receive from architects and engineers.

WHY SHE LOGS SO MUCH TIME WITH NEWH: NEWH is the industry's leading network organization. No matter what you do in the hospitality business, networking is essential. Building strategic relationships is the best way to sustain and grow your business.

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